The Federal Government on Monday, appealed to the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) to suspend its nationwide industrial action, which had paralysed activities in courts across the country.
The union had on April 6 embarked on nationwide strike to protest non-implementation of the financial autonomy of the nation’s judiciary.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, made the appeal at a reconciliatory meeting between the Federal Government and the leadership of the union in Abuja.
Ngige reminded the striking judicial workers that like doctors and nurses, they were on essential duties and should not go on strike.
According to him, the country cannot make progress economically and socially, when the laws of the country are not enforced.
“You are important people and that is why we waited to see if there can be an in-house reconciliation with the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN).
“But since progress was not made, we decided to exercise our mandate here as Ministry of Labour and Employment.
“Grant us peace and we are going to handle this matter in a way that do not lose sight of what you are pursuing. I will do a report on this meeting and forward to the President when he returns.
“I will make a commitment here. The Executive Order 10 and its application, granting autonomy to the judiciary which is topmost on your demand will be tackled because it is a constitutional issue.
“Even Governors owe their offices to the constitution. You don’t pick and choose what to obey . However, we must handle this matter with maturity and utmost patriotism,” Ngige said.
He appealed to the striking judicial workers to resume work so that when the judicial officers returned from Easter holidays, they would not meet the strike.
He added that the ministry would approach the dispute in line with the labour laws of the country.
”You people are judicial workers and if any group of people will break the laws of the land, it should not be you.
“Even if we disagree here, we will certainly agree later on one thing, which is to call off the strike,” Ngige said.
Speaking, the President of JUSUN, Mr Marwan Adamu, said that the union was guided by the constitution of the country in its action, stressing that democracy had to thrive on the Rule of Law.
“The Federal Republic of Nigeria is a federation and is guided by a constitution.
”However, we observed that the particular provision of the constitution that grants financial autonomy to the judiciary has never been obeyed as much as it should be, particularly Section 21(3) and Section 81(3),” he said.
According to him, having agitated for so long for the needful to be done and it is not done, we went to court and got a judgment before 2014.
“We are patient. We are not lawless people because we work in a sector where the Rule of Law guides our operations.
”But to our amazement since we went on strike in 2015, the government seems not to hear us until now,” he said.
Adamu said that the union believed so strongly that anything could happen without the Rule of Law “and when there is the law of nature, life can be poor, solitary, brutish and nasty.”
At the meeting were, representatives of the Solicitor General of Nigeria, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) and Senior Special Assistant to the President on Niger/Delta Affairs, Sen. Eta Enang.
The meeting agreed to reconvene on Thursday.